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Posted on Mon, Oct 12, 2009 : 7:43 p.m.

Michigan guard Zack Novak is ready to make a bigger difference this year

By Michael Rothstein

He went back to the part of northwest Indiana known affectionately as “The Region” over the summer and with nothing to do, Zack Novak would do what felt normal.

He’d find some pickup basketball.

Living in Chesterton, Ind., on the outskirts of what has become an area of basketball strength in recent years, playing pickup ball gave Novak a chance to face similar competition to what he sees when he’s a few hours northeast in Ann Arbor.

When he’d head to Valparaiso University for these games, he’d see familiar faces. Notre Dame junior forward Scott Martin showed up a couple of times. So did Martin’s former high school and Purdue teammate, Robbie Hummel. Some players from Valpo were also around as Novak worked to prepare for his sophomore season at Michigan.

“It helps,” Novak said. “I have a lot of friends back there that are still playing that are good players. I go back and there are no troubles finding games. When you go home, it’s about trying to maintain your skills and, really, then it was more about getting more work in the gym by myself with a couple friends maybe, getting a good workout in there.”

When he would practice in solitude, he worked on pulling up for jump shots, on creating more space for himself and going harder off of the dribble than just spot-up shooting. Those were all areas the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Novak felt he struggled with as a freshman despite starting the last 22 games he played in and averaging 6.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and shot 34.4 percent from the three-point line.

Then there was the issue of his body.

Admittedly a "little heftier" last season, Novak said he’s noticed more explosiveness in his game as well - something he credits to working on agility drills and plyometric drills to increase power.

His body, as he puts it, "feels better."

While he lost weight in the process, he’s also become sturdier. Novak also felt that he’s become a better defender. Much of that has to do with the off-season work the sophomore guard put in.

“His quickness is considerably different,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “A year of lifting weights, I’ve noticed a lot more athleticism in him. He runs easier, jumps easier, defends easier.

“All those things from taking care of his body and working his speed, quickness and weight training.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.